Rare Breed–Bonneville Cutthroat

I’ve always wanted to fish for Bonneville cutthroat. The landscape they hangout in, often high desert valleys, appeals to me. The trout were once thought extinct, but now known to exist in sections of a few streams and in a couple of lakes. Their hold on life seems precarious and I’m sure that’s part of the attraction for me. The name is good, too. So in the fall I head down towards the far flung corner of southwestern Wyoming in the direction of Kemmerer, home of the first JC Penney store. Found the town and friendly people and relatively cheap gas, but more work was needed to find the Bonnevilles.

After a long day driving and seeking I found a stretch of stream that was purported to hold the species of my desire. Beautiful water running for miles with cottonwoods blazing yellow in the sunlight along with golds, reds, and purples of ground vegetation. No one around. I parked, rigged up, and dropped down to the water. An hour’s fishing produced nothing until we came upon a long, deep pool where trout were visible eating grasshoppers blown into the water by puffs of warm wind. I cast above one of the Bonnevilles and watched simultaneously the floating Joe’s Hopper and the rising, white, gaping mouth of the fish that drifted beneath the fly before sucking the thing in with an audible “slurp.” The trout hooked itself, running and leaping about the pool scattering the others, then sounds and runs some more before breaking the surface in a spray of crystal to jump for the light several more times. The fish comes to me struggling at this indignity and assault on its natural freedom. I hold the trout and wonder at its design, its colors, and its similarity to Yellowstone cutthroat. Ginny takes a bunch of photos and then the fish is turned loose, disappearing in the green-blue depths. Two more casts produce two more cutthroat like the first one and the day is made and we’re happy and back at the Suburban drinking pop, eating sausage and cheese, and riding a fine day, one of the finest growing better by the moment.

As with all road trips, out of the ordinary is par for the course. On the walk back to our rig three stoned, blasted Bozos stop and ask us where to gain access to the water. They’re in a painting company truck from Jackson. The clown in the back obviously lost track of his name weeks ago and he contented himself with working on a can of Schlitz (Schlitz?) beer. They tell us they’ve caught a hundred Bonnevilles and plenty of Czechoslovakian browns with blue stripes above their eyes. The driver tells us they we planted over two-hundred years ago. We eye each other, chat a bit and they vanish in a cloud of dust. I do not see any fishing gear in the cab or the truck’s bed. Never heard of blue-streaked eastern European browns and if their planting data is correct the salmo trutta described here were dropped in this little stream before Lewis and Clark wandered westward.

Ah, yes. The joys of conversing with the terminally wasted. I fully understand the concept. We look at each other again and laugh while a turkey vulture offers a wide-spread wing display on a weathered fence post. The behavior is known as a horaltic pose whose purpose is two bake off parasites, dry feathers and warm the body. A companion looks on with obvious boredom. These creatures defecate on their own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool themselves down. There’s a fancy scientific name for this, but considering the ostentatious nature of the behavior using the word might be overkill. The vultures also projectile vomit on perceived enemies. Wonderful creatures, every one of them.

We finish our lunch and make plans to head for the upper Green River to seek Colorado cutthroat tomorrow morning.


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